tv [untitled] February 27, 2011 8:30am-9:00am PST
dan, i was locked behind this -- then, i was locked behind this cell. two weeks later, people were outraged. women could not believe it -- a child drug off a bus? violated segregation law, but they dropped two of the charges because i think they thought we were trying to challenge the case, take it higher. [inaudible] he actin' crazy. i just stopped looking people in the eye and kept to myself. felt like an outsider. i don't want to be humiliated.
that hearing began in 1956. the attorney, her lawyer when she was 15, and who did not win that case, but said her case [inaudible] realized that they could potentially win. claudette colvin was the star witness in the federal court case. that case had went to the supreme -- that case went to the supreme court. [inaudible] the rest is history. [applause] >> ok, i would like to bring to the stage our honored guest.
i'm going to introduce him, and if you and mrs. colvin could make your way. described as an artist who speaks the truth we desperately need to hear, is a harvard law graduate, prison activist, hip- hop artist, grand slam poetry champion, actor, author, and educator. his new book, "the ugly side of beautiful: rethinking race in prisons in america" will be published later this year. the start of the off-broadway hip-hop theater production, he has lectured and performed at over 100 colleges and correctional facilities in the united states, africa, asia, latin america, and europe. he has released two albums to critical acclaim, taught at brooklyn college, new york university, the new school in columbia university, and is now touring lyrics for lockdown.
one of those is sponsored by the naacp. i learned that he is beginning rehearsals for the remakes of "the wiz." let's welcome him. [applause] our moderator for this afternoon, world renowned anti- racist, multicultural educator. [applause] yes. as many of you in the audience know, she is an accomplished front line teacher. a teacher, educators, researchers, writers, consultant, speaker. she is like a mother, auntie,
big sister, all in one, for me. she has taught in canada, the caribbean, and the u.s. and has been involved in the development of teachers for two decades. she consults on anti-racist inclusion very and equitable education. she assists school districts and schools to continually restructure themselves for equitable outcomes for all students. the initiative put that puts race -- she designed the initiative that puts race on the table. she is the virtual scholar for teaching for change. she is the author of "reality check," a major report on education. maybe conversation began. >> this is an occasion when we are going to talk across generations.
these two guests here. and then we have some time for you to talk with them. the afternoon is full, and we are on to a little bit of a late start, so let me tell you how we hope to go. we will begin with ms. colvin giving 10 minutes of her very long and illustrious life in terms of work for civil rights. just 10 minutes. then, bryonn bain, whose life is not as long but illustrious nonetheless, will give 10 minutes also with some trauma at the head of it. and then we will have a conversation for the next maybe 20 minutes, amongst the three of us. then we will open it to the floor for you to ask them questions. the goal is this -- when we leave this afternoon -- as a teacher, you have to have your objectives set, yes? any teacher with herself has to
know what you want to have come of this. what i want to have, this is that we are all more informed about the way in which systems of racism work in this country -- what i want to have come of this. and also have a clear sense of what each of us can do about it and what we individually will do with our own work. that is the assignment. let's get started. i'm going to ask ms. colvin to, in 10 minutes or so, stick to two important dates, mentioned by awele. the march to date and the may 11 date in court -- the march 2 date and may 11 date. i know there is a lot to say, but if you could fill us in on
that and then move on. >> first, i would like to say, good evening, everyone. i will try to take you back to march 2, but first, i have to begin with when i first understood that the races were separated. i was born in alabama, but i moved to live with my biological aunt and uncle. remember, in the rural area, there are no signs saying " white" and "colored" because it is too difficult, but how i learned about it is in the general store. they sell everything. everything you want to find in
the post office, the bus station -- everything has been in the general store. one day, i was standing in line. it was a summer day, and some white kids came in. funny thing about it -- you know their parents' names, but you do not know the children's names because you are not allowed to interact with white children. they came in, and they were laughing, and the older ones started punching me. one of the little boys -- i do not know, somebody was saying something about my hands. he wanted to see my hands. i just raised them up. i was wondering what they wanted to see my hands for. what happened was the white boy placed his hands against my hands, and his mother looked at my mom, and my mom looked at me,
and she gave me a backhand slap. from then on, i knew that i was not supposed to talk to a white child or interact with a white child. that was a very early age. i was maybe around five or six years old. then, my mother explained to me about -- and words stuck in my mind -- "white folks." another occasion happened to me in a five and ten-cent store. i have to tell you this to put it in perspective. it was not just march 2. it was all the bad experiences that i have had as a child at that young age that i should not have had to have gone through. there was a lunch counter. i still tell everybody i love
the smell of that by then 10 -- that five and ten. i looked over and saw these little white kids sitting on coca-cola -- sipping on coca- cola. they were eating double-decker'' sandwiches, and my mother was looking away, and i sneaked over there. i knew she would come over there and buy me one. she came back and grabbed me by the back of my collar and pulled me -- she said, "i told you, that is for white folks." you learn at a very early age. she said, "honey, are you hungry?" i was not hungry, but i saw what those white children had. those are the little things that
stick in your mind as you grow up. and another thing you learn about trying on clothes in the department store. all of that was going on in my mind at a very young age. what really set it off -- i had two teachers -- during february, we did it for the whole month because we figured we had been cheated out of our history of america. only two names were in the encyclopedia, and that was booker t. washington and george washington carver, but she lectured about the contribution of frederick douglass, w.e.b. dubois, and how jackie robinson had broken the baseball barrier.
and we remembered the opera singer who was not allowed to sing in the hall and had to sing in lincoln center. all the discrimination and the local in justices. like, everything was separate and unequal. the school was inadequate. we could not go to the hospitals. they built a house adjacent to the main hospital. the white people were not supposed to be in the same room with an n-person. you know the n-word? i said to myself at the end of the day that i love my country and i'm glad that that day, i took a stand. i saw through the supreme court that the flaws that america had tried to correct them by
removing those horrible signs -- "white" and "colored." i said when i testified at the trial, i went through how we were treated, and the lady dramatize it, so i do not have to go through that, but it is the whole system of separate but unequal. it is understates rights -- is under states' rights. after lincoln had freed us from slavery, they instituted this law, separate but equal, and the state had sanctioned it. but everything there was, even when they had things that were federal, they would put a rope up, and the white people would
be on one side, and the black people on the other side. i prayed. i'm a baptist. i hope was that the people would hear about the injustices. [applause] >> thank you very much for giving us those highlights. we want to move to a different era in this nation's history, when those signs are no longer present, but their presence is
felt. with that, i turned t to bryonn bain. >> i am supposed to perform a piece, but i just feel like i want to talk to you. can i bring the format and do that? is that ok? i am honored and humbled to be aired. i want to acknowledge the presence of my elders, ancestors who made it possible for me to be here today. i am away by -- the more i hear, the more i read, the more i research -- i was not doing anything nearly as courageous at 18 years old. looking back, when i was 15, that was the first year, in 1990, when my brothers and i were invited to perform in the presence in upstate new york for the holiday. it was not a big political thing.
it was a holiday. we were just going to go and sing sing christmas carols, do some rap songs, whether we could do to cheer up the brothers that were locked up. we started to do it over and over again. it was only 10 years later and that we began to see ways to use that in a more pro-active way. we would come out of a nightclub in new york city, my brother, my cousin, and i. we had had some experience with the police harassing us on the streets. this particular night, somebody had gotten into a fight, we were probably the only black folks in a white neighborhood the party that they were at, they were playing salsa, marvin gaye, and we were hanging out after the birthday party. we got caught up in a situation where the police had been
called for shots fired. we happened to be the only black people there, they got us and put us in jail. that was the first day that you mentioned. the long and short of it is, i was in my second year of law school at the time. i am reading all these things about criminal procedure, criminal law. the stuff that is on the books is not what is happening on the streets. don't i have some kind of rights? miranda or something? they just did what they want and it was the first time that somebody had taken my body and had physically done something with me -- except raimondi, a different category. [laughter] they put me and handcuffs and they did all of that. so i wrote about it.
my lawyer, she was also a teacher. she encouraged me to tell my story. the next week, the assignment in class, it was to talk about -- writing about an experience of injustice. i was ready to send this. i did not think anything of it, but she said that people should know about your story. i sent it to somebody. the editor from "the new york times" called me and said that it was a lot of racy for them. but people just kept running in, i got letters in from brothers and death row. we are reading your article. we are glad what you are saying. they will not believe us. you have all of these degrees. next week, mike wallace calls me
for an interview. i was talking to ms. colvin earlier. she said the media has a certain way to take people and put them up and you do not hear about everyone else. as if these are isolated incidents. so they called and his producers were like, we want to interview. we want to interview you on your campus in cambridge. i said, my brothers would like to, too. we have been putting this case for five months. basically, i said we are not going to do it. this is bogus. my porter rican red-haired cousin, he has funny hair. he was there, too. so we came back and they decided to do it with everybody. when that story came out, i started getting harassed. the police were giving out my
social security number, my name. i had 50 cases of identity theft that followed. the next thing you ask to talk about was november 23, 2002. this experience changed my life. we started going to the prisons with a purpose now. we turned into touring artists for the prisons around the country. talking to the folks who were incarcerated, folks in the local community to inform the movement by those most directly affected. we came home for winning an award in grass-roots activism and then the police stop us for a taillight being out in the back of the car. when they run my license, they say i'm going to jail because there were three wards offer my arrest. it was bryonn bain, aka bostick.
i did not know who that was. they have given up my information and i've done myself in jail again for a crime i did not commit. this time i said, hell no, i am suing everybody. the police, the state of new york. the public defender came to me -- this is the craziest part of the situation. the public defender who is there to defend your constitutional rights -- she came in to see me with plastic cause and a surgical mask. i saw her walking around with all the rest of the brothers. i thought maybe she had something that she did not want to give us. [laughter] that is righteous. i respect that. whenever you have to do. then she got me into the interrogation room and she said to me, you say you have education. where did you go to school, high school? public-school of new york.
this does that add up. i skipped two grades before college. where did you go to college? how did you pay for college? you went to grad school? how did you pay for law school? what did that have to do with my case? i was just going with the flow. finally, she said to me, it is my professional obligation to inform you -- not only as an attorney but as a registered nurse acting as a dentist -- you may have a bipolar disorder. she said, it is nothing bad. something -- sometimes people create alternate realities for themselves as a coping mechanism for how to deal with stress. i was like, are you saying i am crazy? she did not believe anything that i said. she said, when it comes to the judges, do not bring up anything about your education.
that was the second day in a three-day experience. i figured, if i had these degrees -- and it was crazy. after my second story, i started getting offers from goldman sachs, merrill lynch. i said, i wanted to do work that was meaningful to me, so ended up working in the prison system at rikers island. i know all of that was in so many ways possible because of the work that you did. i just want to say that i honor you, respect, love everything that you have done, all the roads that you have paid to allow me to do the best things that i have done. [applause] >> 44 years apart these two stories happens. clearly, life is not the same.
so i went to ask you, miss coleman, what has changed since your time? and, bryonn, after that, what has not changed? when you listen to this story 44 years later for what you sat down and fought for, what has changed? >> well, that is a difficult question. i have to say, depending on what part of the country you come from -- when i have visited and montgomery, people ask, what did they get out of the civil rights movement? one thing. the street that i lived on, instead of calling it east dixie
drive, they called it claudia colvin drive. [applause] that is one thing that has changed. and in my memory -- -- montgomery -- [laughter] in montgomery, you had to go through the back entrance. now you can go through the front. and they took down all the signs. my sisters even said, you know, we have that cosmetic change that you see on tv. she said, before you could not go into the department store to try on hats. now you can go into the department store and they have malls and they have expanded it
and everything. so that has changed. and the attitude of white people. when i was growing up, my father did not mind people calling him by his first named. his first name was qp. in the court case, they ask, what does that stand for? it stood for quinnith paul. the white people use to just call him jordy and they would call his son, boy. even the teachers and the faculty members of my school said they never called him buy anything other than his first name. and he was a professor of alabama state. so i have seen all of that change.
it is an attitude change. and as my sister called it, a cosmetic change. they say, dixie had a cosmetic change. they have the same mental attitude haas racists, but they cannot call you girl and gal anymore. to me, they are over-polite. in my experience in the hotel -- ms. colvin, how can i help you? it is a little over-polite, and i get tired of it sometimes. [laughter] now, you remember i live in new york, the big apple.
help me to stay the word -- say the word -- i do not want to sound like sarah palin -- [laughter] what is the word for many races? multi-cultural, yes. they could not care one less if you were white or black. let mayor bloomberg tell you what their value is, the money. in new york, every night, racism raises its ugly head and you have these killings, racial profiling, like we had sean bell.